Hirscher ends Austrian wait for individual gold

Sun Feb 17, 2013 9:46am EST
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By Brian Homewood

SCHLADMING, Austria (Reuters) - Marcel Hirscher, the world's top skier last season, won the men's slalom to give host nation Austria their first individual gold at the Alpine skiing world championships in the final of the ten events on Sunday.

The 23-year-old sent the 30,000 crowd into raptures as he beat Germany's Felix Neureuther, the son of former Olympic champion Rosi Mittermaier and 1970s slalomist Christian Neureuther, by 0.42 seconds over the two runs.

Hirscher's compatriot Mario Matt completed an excellent day for the hosts, whose only previous gold was in the low-key team event, by finishing third to add to the gold medals he won in the slalom in 2001 in St Anton and 2007 in Are.

Hirscher, who won silver in Friday's giant slalom, led after the first run and nearly came a cropper as he attacked on the second, but recovered his balance just in time.

American Ted Ligety's hopes of a fourth gold medal ended early when he skidded out high on the first run.

Ligety had already won the super-G, giant slalom and combined to become the first male skier to win three golds at the championships for 45 years.

But he is not a slalom specialist and said beforehand he did not expect to win Sunday's race.

Fans packed the stands and mountainside more than an hour before the start in sub-freezing temperatures, many of them guzzling cold beer and eating hot dogs from as early as eight o'clock in the morning.   Continued...

(L to R) Second placed Felix Neureuther of Germany, first placed Marcel Hirscher of Austria and third placed Mario Matt of Austria celebrate on the podium after the men's Slalom race at the World Alpine Skiing Championships in Schladming February 17, 2013. REUTERS/Dominic Ebenbichler